Lula launches his candidacy for the presidency against Bolsonaro, objective “to rebuild” the country

Lula launches his candidacy for the presidency against Bolsonaro, objective

The old lion of the Brazilian left, Lula, launched his October presidential candidacy on Saturday to “rebuild” the country, after the “irresponsible and criminal” management of Jair Bolsonaro. “We are all ready to work not only for victory, but for the reconstruction and transformation of Brazil, which will be more difficult than the election itself,” said Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, 76, during a rally in front of 4,000 supporters in Sao Paulo.

Twelve years after leaving power with a stratospheric approval rate (87%), the former trade unionist, who still has no successor on the left, will therefore run for a third term. The announcement of this sixth candidacy for the presidential election was an open secret. For lack of a candidate who would make a third way viable, Lula is the only one who can beat Jair Bolsonaro (67) at the polls, whom he distances in all the polls, but who seems ready to do anything to retain power.

“Democracy or totalitarianism”

“What do we want? The Brazil of democracy or authoritarianism? The choice has never been so simple”, chanted Lula in front of the crowd who cheered him to cries of “Lula, warrior of the Brazilian people”. He spoke for about fifty minutes in front of a giant screen showing the Brazilian flag, a symbol that the bolsonarists had appropriated.

“Brazil is too big to be relegated to the rank of pariah”, launched Lula, repeating several times that he claimed to “restore the sovereignty” of the country, in the face of “the irresponsible and criminal policy of the government”.

Contrary to the big meetings of his heyday, where he showed all his aura as a tribune, Lula, navy suit and open shirt collar, was content to read his speech, not looking at the public very much and avoiding big flights.

Controversial remarks

His relatives advised him to show a calm and reassuring face, after recent slippages which caused controversy. During an interview with the magazine Time this week, he attacked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, this “good humorist (…) who puts on a show” and is “as responsible” for the war in his country as his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The former milling cutter was also singled out for his controversial statements on abortion, the police or the middle classes.

In a bid to show a sacred union to beat Jair Bolsonaro, Lula’s running mate Geraldo Alckmin, former center-right governor of Sao Paulo, said in his video conference speech that “no divergence” could prevent it from fulfilling its “mission, the defense of democracy”.

If he does not have the charisma of Lula, Geraldo Alckmin, who was beaten by the left-wing ex-president in the second round of the ballot in 2006, is there to reassure the voter of the center, of the moderate right, and the business community.

“As close as possible to voters”

From next week, Lula will go on campaign and criss-cross the country – as President-candidate Bolsonaro has been doing for months – starting with the state of Minas Gerais (south-east). “If he really wants to win the election, Lula must go to the streets, like Bolsonaro, be closer to the voters,” Sylvio Costa, founder of the Congresso em foco site, told AFP. The presidential election of October 2 and 30 will bear witness to the extreme polarization of the immense emerging country of 213 million inhabitants.

This new candidacy has a taste of revenge for the ex-president, whose banishment from the race in 2018 had allowed the easy election of Jair Bolsonaro. While imprisoned for a year and a half for corruption until November 2019, the political career of the ex-metalworker seemed to be over. Until the Supreme Court overturned his convictions in March 2021.